Reporting Reduces Medical Errors

Acts of medical malpractice are often hidden by the secrecy afforded hospitals and health care providers by various state laws which make these matters confidential and immune from discovery by the public.
In an effort to reduce these sometimes deadly errors, the state of Indiana initiated a method of publicly tracking preventable medical errors. In just the fourth year of reporting, Indiana hospitals and surgery centers reported more than a 10 percent decrease in errors between 2008 and 2009.
Indiana’s Medical Error Reporting System requires hospitals, surgery centers, abortion clinics and birthing centers to report “never events.” These are medical errors that should never occur. The errors cover 28 serious events, from surgery performed on the wrong patient to an infant discharged to the wrong person to patient suicide.
Indiana was just the second state after Minnesota to require reporting of the errors, which are defined by the National Quality Forum, a nonprofit group seeking improvements in health-care quality. Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana issued an executive order in 2005 requiring the Indiana State Department of Health to implement the system.
According to press reports, some goals of the program already have been met. The reporting system has made citizens more aware of the incidence of medical errors.
The goal of analyzing data to learn where errors are being made was realized in the health department’s new initiative to reduce pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores. The state sought to improve systems for assessing risk factors for patients and in training hospital personnel. Just 22 bedsores were reported in Indiana in 2009. That is an amazingly small number.
Of the 94 preventable errors reported in Indiana in 2009, one health system, by far the state’s largest reported 18, the highest reported. That health system had 56,022 inpatient discharges and 168,689 outpatient visits during 2009.
Tracking and preventing errors is a key to reining in health-care costs. The Society of Actuaries reported this month that medical errors cost hospitals $19.5 billion in 2008.
Medicare is currently refusing to reimburse providers for treatment caused by preventable errors. The federal health-care reform lawincludes measures to cut these costs by requiring Medicare to track a hospital’s error rates. In 2014, the federal government will cut payment by 1 percent to hospitals with the highest rates of patient safety issues.
These measures reduce medical costs, and more importantly, save lives.

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